By Shevaughnne Brown
It’s the moment all loyal Frank Ocean fans have been waiting for. It’s been four long years since last we heard new music from the soulful contemporary R&B crooner; he seemed to have fallen off the face of the earth, and for good reason too: to give us the gift of this timeless classic Blond. The 17 track concept album was released exclusively on iTunes on August 20, 2016 and, in my personal opinion, very well worth the wait. In traditional Frank Ocean fashion the concept album features songs dealing with raw emotions on various subjects such as love, materialism, drug use, and self acceptance. Many fans worried that his follow up to Channel Orange would not be as gratifying; however, Blond more than exceeds expectations and will probably supersede the latter’s success. The album features guest vocals from Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, André 3000, and Kim Burell (just to name a few). Frank Ocean himself served as one of the producers in collaboration with heavy hitters like Pharrell Williams, Tyler The Creator, Jamie XX, and many more. The lead single “Nikes” is an ode to groupies that try to start relationships with him with the objective of taking advantage of his wealth; he uses Nikes famous “Swoosh” logo as a metaphor for money or a check. Here I will attempt to give a track-list review of selected tracks from the album, so listeners will know exactly what to expect from this masterpiece.
“Nikes” features Ocean singing in a slightly distorted, almost unrecognizable, voice. The track critiques materialistic women while making reference to Nike shoes and using the “Swoosh Logo” as a metaphor for money or a check.
“IVY” is a reflection of a failed past relationship. It seems that Ocean and the person he is referencing on the track have matured and grown apart from one another. The title “IVY” may be in reference to the ivy plant, which can be harmful and unhealthy to other plants as it strangles them; he may be using the title as a metaphor to describe an unhealthy relationship.
“Pink +White” features un-credited vocals by Beyoncé and was produced by Pharrell. This track seems to deal with memories of his youth and of a lover, or someone dear to him who showed him love. Throughout the song he reflects on the things he was taught by this person. The end of the second verse is an ode to his mother, which alludes that the entire song may be about her and the things she taught him growing up.
“Be Yourself” is a voicemail left by Rosie Watson, the mother of one of Ocean’s childhood friends. The voicemail stresses the importance of being yourself and not participating in drug use and any other damaging, or toxic behaviors. In the message she encourages him to trust his own decisions and not rely on the decisions and actions of others.
“White Ferrari” is the 14th track on the album, and one of the most emotional. The song makes reference to The Beatles’ “Here, There, Everywhere”, for which John Lennon and Paul McCartney are credited. In November of last year, Canadian DJ A-Trak tweeted that White Ferrari is “The best thing u’ll hear all year [sic].” He didn’t say who the song was by, but now that the cat is out the bag, many critics and fans agree. The song references love and longevity in relationships.
There are two versions of Blond, one being the digital iTunes exclusive, the other a magazine version which was given away in pop up shops. The album’s original title was Boys Don’t Cry which is referenced in the magazine version of the album. The latter version also has different lyrics for the song “White Ferrari”. Overall Blond has received positive reviews from critics; Rolling Stones editor Jonah Weiner gave the album 4 out of 5 stars calling it a “Dizzy, trippy, druggy marvel.” Chicago Tribune critic Greg Kot gave the album 4 out of 4 stars stating that “while fans were busy waiting, Frank Ocean was preparing a feast.” While Idolator’s Jon Reyes had mostly positive things to say in his critique of Blond he still gave the album a rating of 3.5 out of 5, which may have been due to the album’s blurred lines, or difficult to translate lyrics that require multiple listens to fully grasp. Overall, Blond is slated for tremendous success, ranking #3 on Billboard’s Top R&B and Hip Hop Albums chart after Travis Scott and Beyoncé, and #2 under the R&B Albums category. He currently has 5 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart.
Blond is Frank Ocean’s most vulnerable work yet, and he bares his soul to fans through intrinsic, unadulterated lyrics. He takes us on an emotional rollercoaster of incredible highs with confessions of love, the thrill of new love and one night stands, and devastating lows with details of heartbreaking encounters, drug use, and disingenuous relationships. Blond will most definitely go down as one of the greatest albums of all time, and was most certainly worth the wait.
@atrak. “Mark my words: In a few weeks u’ll hear a song called White Ferrari, I can’t tell u who it’s by but it’s the best thing u’ll hear this year.” Twitter, 23 Nov. 2016, 1:26 a.m., twitter.com/@atrak.
Billboard, ‘Top R&B & Hip Hop Albums’, <Billboardhttp://www.billboard.com/charts/r-b-hip-hop-albums> [13 Sept. 2016]
Billboard, ‘R&B Albums’,<http://www.billboard.com/charts/r-and-b-albums> [13 Sept. 2016]
Reyes, Jon. “Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond’: Album Review.” Idolator, 22 Aug. 2016, http://www.idolator.com/7643715/frank-ocean-blond-album-review
Weiner, Jonah. “Review: Frank Ocean’s ‘Blond’ Is a Dizzy, Trippy, Druggy Marvel.” Rolling Stones, 22 Aug. 2016, http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/review-frank-ocean-blonde-w435566